Monday, March 07, 2011

What's a Punch Key?

When these Southerners first moved north, we often ran across things that were unique to the region and were new to us. Like snow – well, not snow itself, but the seemingly endless supply of it.  And the posts that stick out of the street corners so the snow trucks won’t hit the curb and the way people compulsively take their shoes off the second they darken your doorstep. And camping... Even though we’ve been here almost six years we still occasionally find things that are new to us. Like paczki.

Now, I’ve heard the term thrown around during March since we moved, and I’ve seen the boxes in grocery and convenience stores, but I never thought much about the pastry. However, Sean was shopping with me last Saturday (which is always an experience in expanding the grocery budget) and he thought we should pick up a box, “for the kids.” It’s amazing what we pick up, “for the kids” when Sean is shopping with me.

Anyway, we brought the box home and Sean decided to make it an educational experience prior to a culinary one. The story of the paczki is listed on the package and before the kids opened the box he wanted them to read the information. He is such a dear, isn’t he?  “Here, kids, yummy fried dough with apple filling! But before you dig in, let’s learn all about the paczki!”  There was some grumbling and Sean reconsidered; they read as they ate.  And here’s what we learned:

For hundreds of years in my beloved Poland, my countrymen have been celebrating the arrival of Lent by making Paczki (Punch-key). These delicious, jelly-filled dough balls are made from the finest ingredients and are covered with several types of sugar or glaze. For Fat Tuesday, our bakers make paczki because we are going to fast for 40 days and we want to use up the ingredients in our households… Please join me, a Polish-American leader, and your baker in re-living this old Polish custom by enjoying the best paczki.  Herbert A. Holinko

Y’all, Herb is proud of his paczki. 

For a little more info, here’s what that wealth of questionable knowledge, Wikipedia had to say: 

A pączek is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened sphere and filled with…sweet filling. Pączki are usually covered with powdered sugar, icing or bits of dried orange zest…Although they look like bismarcks or jelly doughnuts, pączki are made from especially rich dough containing eggs, fats, sugar and sometimes milk…These pastries have become popular in the United States as a result of Polish immigrants and marketing by the bakery industry. They are particularly popular in areas where there is a large concentration of Polish immigrants. In the Boston area, Detroit area, Chicago and Northern Illinois, and Southeastern Wisconsin they can regularly be found in supermarkets.

After reading that list of cities, I don’t feel too badly about not hearing about the pastry before our move.

They were a hit with my crowd.  Not, “Oh my word, we have to get them again RIGHT NOW!” But certainly good enough to think about getting the first of next March.

Chalk up yet another cross-cultural experience for us!

Rebecca needed to see inside first


Not so wild about the filling...